Foreign ministry says providing consular assistance to Korean man arrested in Russia

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs building in central Seoul is seen in this Aug. 23, 2020 file photo. Korea Times photo by Yang Seung-joon

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs building in central Seoul is seen in this Aug. 23, 2020 file photo. Korea Times photo by Yang Seung-joon

The foreign ministry said Tuesday it has been providing consular assistance to a South Korean national arrested in Russia reportedly on espionage charges.

Russia’s TASS news agency reported Monday that South Korean citizen Baek Won-soon has been held in the Lefortovo detention facility in Moscow since late February, and a court extended his detention until June 15, citing a law enforcement official.

Baek was arrested by Russian law enforcement earlier this year in the Russian Far East city of Vladivostok and transferred to Moscow for further investigation, according to the news report.

TASS cited a law enforcement source as saying that Baek was handing over classified information to foreign intelligence agencies.

South Korea’s foreign ministry confirmed the arrest.

Korean man detained in Russia on espionage suspicions: TASS

“Upon learning of the arrest, the local diplomatic mission has been providing necessary consular assistance,” the ministry said.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Lim Soo-suk said the South Korean government was “in communication with Russia” regarding the issue.

“The government hopes our national returns safely home in the arms of his family as soon as possible,” he said during a press briefing. “South Korea and Russia are in communication with each other via diplomatic channels.”

The ministry declined to give further details, citing an ongoing investigation.

It marks the first time a South Korean has been arrested in Russia on spying charges.

Baek, a missionary with a South Korean humanitarian foundation, was working in Vladivostok at the time of the arrest, mostly engaged in helping North Korean defectors flee and providing them with other assistance, people with knowledge of the matter told Yonhap.

The Russian authorities had arrested Baek’s wife as well but later released her. She is currently in South Korea.

Relations between South Korea and Russia have soured as Moscow has labeled Seoul an “unfriendly” country over its participation in international sanctions against Russia for its war in Ukraine.

The ties have also cooled as Russia has stepped up military cooperation with North Korea following the Sept. 13, 2023 summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Yonhap)

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